In the early stages of the investigation into the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old Centennial man, authorities lacked an eyewitness.
That changed when law enforcement made contact with Joseph Martin, according to the prosecution in the trial of Terrell Jones, the man accused of pulling the trigger.
Martin spoke to law enforcement in the east Denver suburbs in November 2009, not long after the shooting, saying investigators weren’t looking for the right car and that a group tried to steal from the victim, according to the prosecution.
Eventually, Martin pleaded guilty as being involved in the incident that led to the death of Andrew Graham.
Graham, a University of Colorado graduate who had plans for grad school, was killed around 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2009. He was shot in the front yard of a home in the Willow Creek neighborhood of Centennial near County Line Road and Yosemite Street.
In a case that doesn’t appear to rely on physical evidence, the varying stories of witnesses is taking center stage.
Jones’ trial in the Arapahoe County District Court started in early May and could run for weeks, possibly until June 2, according to the state judicial branch website.
Here’s a look at some key moments from the first week of the trial.
Martin was “kind of like couch hopping, hotel-room hopping” in November 2009, he told the court.
Martin was 17 at the time of the incident, according to the prosecution.
For money, he would do what the prosecution called “bag snatching,” attempting to sell what was inside, he told the court.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Martin was “hanging out” in downtown Denver, and he saw someone who had something he wanted, “like a laptop bag,” he said. Other people were involved, including Jones and other defendants Allen Ford and Clarissa Lockhart, Martin said.
He watched Graham, who went toward the RTD light rail, he said.
“A few of us hopped on the light rail — a few of us hopped in (a) vehicle,” Martin said.
The group followed Graham to the Park Meadows mall area, he said, near the edge of Centennial. They followed him a small distance farther, and eventually one of them told Graham to give them his bag, Martin said.
“He starts arguing with us, saying he’s not going to give us his possession,” Martin said. Graham backed away, and “we just all rushed him and took it.”
Graham got off the ground and “took off running,” Martin said. “That’s when I heard a shot.”
Jones was holding the gun, Martin said.
The group’s goal was to steal the bag and leave, and Martin wasn’t aware Graham would be shot, he said, adding he doesn’t know what prompted the shot.
Denver crimes backdrop
Graham’s death took place in the context of an outbreak of robberies and assaults in the downtown Denver area in 2009.
A 2016 Arapahoe County grand jury indicted Lockhart, Ford, Kendall Adam Austin and Martin — teenagers at the time of Graham’s shooting. The four were arrested in January 2017 in connection with Graham’s death.
Grand juries are sometimes used to decide whether authorities have enough evidence to charge a suspect.
The codefendants described a plot to rob Graham, whom they saw as “a white male who might have money,” according to the affidavit for Jones’ arrest. Jones and three other defendants are African American. One defendant, Martin, was listed as American Indian on the state Department of Corrections website.
Ford, Lockhart and Austin had been linked to the string of race-motivated robberies and assaults in downtown Denver in 2009, according to the affidavit and court proceedings in the Graham case.
Suspects in that rash of crimes told police they targeted White males because they assumed they had money and wouldn’t fight back or present a threat.
Lockhart and Austin pleaded guilty to attempted robbery for crime in September 2009, and Ford pleaded guilty to a bias-motivated crime involving “bodily injury” and pleaded guilty to assault in August 2009 incidents, according to online court records.
Separately, in the case of Graham’s death, Jones was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder, according to court records.
Prosecutors moved to dismiss all of the charges against Austin in October 2019 after deciding it no longer had “a reasonable likelihood of success at trial,” according to Austin’s defense attorney.
(Jones was not charged as a suspect in any of the assaults or robberies in the Denver crime outbreak, according to the court proceedings in the case of Graham’s death.)
Martin allegedly connected to others
When Denver police would put pressure on an area during the 2009 Denver crimes, the parties suspected of involvement would simply move, said Tyrone Campbell, a former Denver police officer who testified at trial in the Graham case.
“We would see those people leave and go in a bunch of different directions,” Campbell said.
Martin said there were a lot of police in the downtown Denver area, and he “decided to take it somewhere else.” The police presence was a reason why the group got on the light rail instead of robbing Graham downtown, Martin said.
Jones and Martin had attended school together, Martin said.
Ford is also someone Martin had met, and he would see him from time to time, Martin said. Martin was also familiar with Lockhart, he added.
Ford and Jones were pictured in a photo from social media shown in court, according to testimony in the trial.
Stories that conflict
Evan Marcia Zuckerman, a defense attorney for Jones, argued Martin has told conflicting stories about the shooting.
“Martin agreed seven times — seven times — to meet with investigators,” Zuckerman told the jury.
He said at one point he doesn’t know who was involved in the case, and soon after, he said Jones was involved — and later, he said he doesn’t know who was involved, Zuckerman said.
Zuckerman said there’s an “astonishing lack of any physical evidence” in the case.
“I mean, like, nothing — nothing physical evidence wise that connected or connects to this day, Terrell Jones to the murder of Andrew Graham,” Zuckerman said. “And you know what else? There’s no physical evidence that connects Joseph Martin, Allen Ford (or) Clarissa Lockhart to the murder of Andrew Graham.”
Chris Wilcox, a prosecutor with Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said Martin, Lockhart and Ford are “three people that you will hear give conflicting statements” but added that “all three of these individuals identified Terrell Jones … as the man who pulled the trigger.”
See more information about the other defendants’ outcomes in court in previous coverage at tinyurl.com/GrahamCase.